Image of blindfolded statue holding the scales of justice

Reclaim our Courts

For years, lawmakers hostile to our reproductive rights have been filling the courts with judges who look — and think — like them. It’s time to reclaim the federal courts to secure rights, opportunities, and reproductive freedoms for all of us.

Section 1: The Issue

80% of Americans support safe, legal abortion.

Yet, in 2021 politicians have enacted state-level abortion restrictions and bans at a record-setting pace.

Why don't the laws reflect the will of the people? Because these politicians are emboldened by courts that they believe are on their side.

Headline: States passed 28 antiabortion restrictions in 4 days. - The Lilly, May 2, 2021Headline: Near-Complete Ban on Abortion Is Signed Into Law in Texas - NYTimes, May 27, 2021Headline: Report details wave of state legislative attempts to restrict abortion in 2021. - NBC News, March 26, 2021Headline: Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Case Challenging Roe v. Wade - NYTimes, May 27, 2021

The courts are meant to protect the people from unconstitutional laws. But under the last administration, the courts changed dramatically.

The United States Supreme Court building.

Section 2: The Courts

With the help of Senator Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump appointed more federal judges in a four year term than any president in recent history.

(How did they do it, you ask? By rigging the system that was in place for decades.)

The Senate must give its "advice and consent" before a president's nominee can become a judge. For President Obama's judicial nominees, Mitch McConnell ground Senate confirmation votes to a halt — leaving more than 100 seats empty for the next president to fill. When President Trump took office, the Senate started working overtime to confirm his picks.

Under McConnell’s leadership, the Senate worked quickly by sidestepping key rules, including but not limited to:

  • Confirming appeals court nominees without home state senators' approval
  • Reducing debate time for appeals court nominees from 30 hours to 2
  • Overlooking unqualified ratings from the non-partisan American Bar Association

Federal judges confirmed in the first term*


Donald Trump



Barack Obama


W. Bush

George W. Bush



Bill Clinton


H.W. Bush

George H. W. Bush



Ronald Reagan


*under Article III of the Constitution

Article III of the Constitution governs the appointment, tenure, and payment of Supreme Court justices, and federal circuit and district judges. These judges, often referred to as “Article III judges,” are nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

You can see Trump’s impact on the Supreme Court...

Arrow pointing down to Brett KavanaughArrow pointing down to Neil GorsuchArrow pointing down to Amy Coney Barrett
Supreme Court justices.

But the damage you may not have heard about is in the courts of appeals.

While the Supreme Court is asked to review 6,000-8,000 cases a year, it hears only about 60-80 cases. That means that the decisions made by circuit courts are the last word in many more cases — about 48,000 each year.

Judicial Branch

More cases that challenge abortion restrictions will be decided by judges in these lower courts — not the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court
1 court, 9 justices
Courts of Appeals
13 circuits, 179 judges
District Courts
94 districts, 677 judges

Nearly 1 in 3 judges in the Courts of Appeals is now a President Trump pick.

A gavel on a navy blue background. A gavel on a navy blue background.

Trump’s judicial appointments were disproportionately:

  • White
  • Male
  • Hostile towards reproductive health and rights

Meanwhile, people disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions are:

Remember, people's identities are complex. The impact is even greater for those living at the intersection of multiple identities.

  • People of color
  • Female
  • People with low incomes

Section 3: Your Rights

The shift in the courts has put your reproductive freedom at risk.

As the makeup of the courts changed…

Map graphic showing the 13 Circuits and how they are flipping. The 9 Circuit is shown blinking yellow.
majority Republican-appointed judges (before Trump)
majority Democrat-appointed judges (before Trump)
flipped by Trump’s judge appointments

...more abortion restrictions passed.

The last few years have set records for the severity of state-level bans on abortion. Most of these bans are in circuits with majority Republican-appointed judges:


abortion restrictions were introduced in 47 states in 2021


restrictions were enacted so far in 2021 — including 11 bans


2018 ban from Mississippi will be heard by the Supreme Court, putting Roe at risk

We are watching a coordinated strategy unfold to roll back reproductive freedom.

This is about power and ignores the will of the people.

Politicians promoting these ideas know their agendas are deeply unpopular in a country that's becoming ever-more diverse. So they clung to their last strands of power by filling the courts with lifetime-appointed judges who think — and look — a lot like them.

McConnell, Trump, Pence at desk

Let’s meet a few of the judges, shall we?

Cory Wilson
Cory Wilson

Judge on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Supported “the complete and immediate reversal of Roe v. Wade” in a 2007 questionnaire.

Sarah Pitlyk
Sarah Pitlyk

Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

Defended Iowa’s unconstitutional abortion ban at 6 weeks, when most women do not even realize they are pregnant.

Stuart Kyle Duncan
Stuart Kyle Duncan

Judge on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Voted twice to ban nearly all abortions in Texas during the pandemic and before becoming a judge, he litigated multiple cases seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights.

Wendy Vitter
Wendy Vitter

Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

Has spoken at anti-abortion rallies and panels and represented organizations that try to undermine access to reproductive care.

Section 4: Reclaiming our courts

You have the power to change this. It’s time to make the courts work for the people.

The United States is diverse. Our lived experiences are vast and complex. And we deserve a future free from politicians and judges interfering with our ability to make decisions over our bodies.

With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House and narrow majorities in Congress, we have an urgent opportunity to fill court vacancies with diverse champions of reproductive health and rights.

Here’s what we need to do now:

Reclaim the courts with judges who will protect reproductive rights, including abortion.

Confirm judicial nominees who reflect the diversity and progressive values of our nation.

Impose ethics and transparency requirements for Supreme Court Justices.

While all other federal judges are required to follow a code of ethics, Supreme Court justices are not. We must improve disclosure requirements and ethical standards for justices.

There are dozens of vacancies in the federal courts, and the time to speak up is now.

Using your voice is powerful

Amanda Gorman

Poet & Activist

“If the sexes and all people are to be equal, abortion has to be actually accessible and not just technically legal.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Late Supreme Court Justice

"The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity…When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

Mazie K. Hirono

Senator, Hawaii

"A single vote from one justice is all it would take to radically change the direction of our overturn Roe v. Wade, and deny women control over their reproductive rights."

Paxton Smith

Student, Texas

"I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does. And without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us."

Whether you're old or young, a public official or a private citizen, you can make a change.

Section 5: Take action

Join the fight to reclaim our courts.

We know — the challenge we face now can feel intimidating. But take power in knowing you’ve got a movement behind you — one that’s 17-million people strong — with Planned Parenthood.